3 years of AAP govt: Bypolls on 20 seats to test Kejriwal’s popularity in Delhi
Before it completes its five-year term in 2020, the AAP government in Delhi will face tests of popularity in the form of a likely bypoll to 20 assembly seats and election to the seven Lok Sabha constituencies.
The Election Commission had disqualified 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit. After the legislators approached the Delhi High Court, it restrained the poll panel from announcing bypolls till the matter is pending with the court. Next year, the party will be testing waters in the Lok Sabha polls against a dominant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a resurgent Congress. The party fortunes depend on works accomplished by its government.
“These three years have been complex for the AAP. But, the Kejriwal government now needs to focus primarily on development to be able to showcase it in the polls. There are areas such as transport and environment where a lot needs to be done,” said Sudha Pai, ex-professor, Centre for Political Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
After its poor performance in the MCD elections and Rajouri Garden bypoll held in April last year, the government redrew its strategy, as a part of which chief minister Arvind Kejriwal took up the water portfolio. The CM earlier had no portfolio.
“Our plan for polls is to fulfill most of our promises. The government has been able to establish itself in four sectors till now – electricity, water, health and education. Now, the focus will be on other areas,” said Saurabh Bharadwaj, MLA from Greater Kailash and AAP spokesperson.
Sanjay Kumar, a political scientist with Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), says the likely bypolls would be the first litmus test for the party before it goes to polls in 2020. “In case of a bypoll, even if AAP wins 16 of the 20 seats, the opposition will project it as a setback. But, what remains to be seen is whether it will have any impact on the 2020 assembly polls,” he said.
In 2014 Lok Sabha elections, AAP failed to win a single seat but got a thumping majority a few months later in the assembly polls.
The biggest challenge before the party, however, is to keep its flock together, which has already seen multiple episodes of dissent, from sulking leaders like Kumar Vishwas to expulsion of party’s veteran leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav and a bitter fallout with minister Kapil Mishra.
“You cannot always be antagonistic. There are other dynamics to politics and the voter today is very demanding. The AAP government should project itself as a team and address the tremendous crisis Delhi is facing in urban governance,” said Biswajit Das, Director of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance at Jamia Millia Islamia.
He reasoned that AAP remains in the spotlight because it runs the government in the national Capital. “Even if its detractors try to engage it in other rows, the Kejriwal dispensation should focus on work only,” said Das.
The party has decided to field candidates in all seven parliamentary constituencies of Delhi. “But, the decision on candidates in other states will be taken in the coming months. Labour minister and senior AAP leader Gopal Rai is holding meetings in all seven Lok Sabha constituencies to mobilise party workers and volunteers,” Bharadwaj said.